Lou and Peter Berryman will bring their musical humor to the Gerold Opera House on Saturday, April 27.
Their performance will begin at 7 p.m.
Tickets are $15 in advance and may be purchased at The Coffee Klatsch in Weyauwega, The Book Cellar in Waupaca and at wegaarts.org; tickets are $20 at the door.
Lou and Peter were students at Appleton High School when they met in an art class in 1964.
“I don’t think we were in any other classes together, but we became friends quickly due to our shared interests in art and folk music,” Peter said.
That year, they formed the first of a number of folk music bands.
“In those days, Lou played the five-string banjo, and I was just learning the 12-string guitar. We graduated in 1965 and in the fall attended what was then called the UW-Fox Valley Extension, continuing to play folk music in a folk band we formed with two other students,” he said.
After two semesters there, both Lou and Peter transferred to UW-Madison.
They were married in 1967 and spent five years in Canada, one in Ontario, where they performed in a blues quartet, and about four years in Vancouver.
In 1973, they moved back to Madison, and in the mid 1970s, they separated but continued to be friends.
“We actually did not become serious about the music business until after our marital separation,” Peter said. “In the late ’70s, we took the plunge and became a full-time musical duo. By then, we were writing most of the music we performed. whereas in our earlier bands, we had played mostly traditional folk songs.”
In late 1977, they became what one might call the “house band” of the old run-down Washington Hotel bar in Madison, which Peter said was jokingly renamed the Club de Wash.
“We ended up playing there weekly for almost 10 years, often twice a week. In the early ’80s, we also began to tour nationally, which we have been doing ever since.
“We’ve been lucky enough to have played a number of times on national radio programs such as ‘A Prairie Home Companion’ and have produced 18 albums of original music over the years.
“We have had the good fortune of having other performers, from Pete Seeger to Garrison Keillor, sing our songs over the years. We are now both 66 years old so have slowed down somewhat, but still tour from California to Maine and everywhere in between. We now probably average about 60 gigs per year but it varies considerably,” Peter said.
Peter plays the 12-string guitar, and Lou plays the accordion – she picked that up around 1977 to accompany a polka he had written.
“She is a fast learner and was soon proficient on the instrument,” he said.
Their primary influences have been traditional folk singers and various show tune and tin pan alley songwriters, but they also have been inspired by everyone from Wisconsin polka bands to the Beatles.
“Most of our songs are at least partly humorous, though nothing off-color. Our song topics cover everything from pet dogs to home repair to cake recipes to painting the living room,” Peter said.
Lou said as teens, they were inspired by the folk music of the ’60s, by groups and individuals like the Limelighters, Pete Seeger, Joan Baez and Bob Dylan, who were re-interpreting traditional music, as well as writing their own original songs.
“Tom Lehrer and the Smothers Brothers were early inspirations for the idea of injecting humor into commentary about social as well as personal ideas,” Lou said.
She said musically, her inspirations are all over the map.
“When I was at the UW Center-Fox Valley, I met a bunch of people who were playing music of the Renaissance, and I played recorders and viola de gambas. I was a music major in those days as well, and studied as well as played classical music, on keyboard as well as voice,” Lou said.
Through the years, their relationship changed both on and off stage.
“We like to say that our almost 50-year friendship survived a brief seven-year marriage,” Peter said.
He said one aspect of their songwriting, which has changed, is that in the early years, he wrote the lyrics and the music.
“Lou began writing the music for our songs around 1980 and has done so ever since,” he said. “I think this has made our songwriting much stronger, as it now has the input of both of us instead of just one.”
Lou said Peter is “the word writer, and the quirky subject and device that you find in our music is his. Music and lyric do work hard together in our music to support the themes of the songs, but for the most part, Peter introduces the subject or the ‘way’ the song means, verbally.”
Peter says the nature of their relationship has kept them out of the familiar trap of writing a stream of falling-in-love-songs and falling-out-of-love songs, which are such overworked themes in pop music.
“We are happily forced to look a little harder at topics like insomnia, forgetfulness, technology, weather, conversation, aging and so forth,” he said. “We even have a song about the history of Limburger cheese.”
Peter is looking forward to their upcoming performance in Weyauwega due to a connection he has to the community.
“One aspect of playing in Weyauwega that has us very excited is that we wrote a song quite a while ago about Weyauwega,” he said.
In 1982, Peter married Kristi Seifert whose family owns a small cut-your-own Christmas tree farm between Weyauwega and New London.
“I have often helped out over the decades and have come to love this part of Wisconsin,” he said. “The song, which we sing all over the country, is called ‘Weyauwega Moon’ and even has a reference to the Horse and Buggy Days Parade.”
He said it will be a thrill for them to sing the song in Weyauwega.
“Aside from that, we plan on offering our repertoire of often funny and sometimes goofy original songs – many about other aspects of Wisconsin life – and having a good time with the folks of my Wisconsin home-away-from-home,” Peter said.
Visit www.louandpeter.com to learn more about them and their music.
“As always, we will do our best to give the audience a good show at the Gerold and are looking forward very much to meeting folks at the intermission and after the concert,” Peter said.